ZeroAvia, Natilus Partner To Develop Hydrogen-Electric Cargo Aircraft

Natilus’ Kona blended-wing body design will use ZeroAvia engines.

Natilus is developing the Kona aircraft for use with ZeroAvia engines. [Courtesy: Natilus]

Natilus, a developer of autonomous blended-wing body, or BWB, cargo aircraft, and ZeroAvia, which develops hybrid propulsion systems, have announced a partnership to develop hydrogen-electric engines for the Natilus Kona.

Under the agreement, ZeroAvia’s ZA600 engine will be the only hydrogen-electric propulsion source offered for the Kona, designed to be a short-haul feeder UAV, the companies said.

The Kona’s BWB design boosts its hydrogen storage capacity compared with more conventional aircraft, potentially increasing range and cutting costs, according to the companies.

The partnership is meant to combine ZeroAvia’s expertise in hydrogen-electric powertrains with Natilus’ BWB design “to create a scalable, long-range, and zero-emission air cargo delivery solution for the entire industry,” the companies said.

After three years of wind-tunnel testing, Natilus recently completed a round of flight tests with a quarter-scale prototype aircraft. ZeroAvia has completed eight test flights of its prototype ZA600, 600kW engine in a 19-seat testbed aircraft, the companies said.

“Natilus has a long-term commitment to being a responsible steward of our environment, instituting practices that can protect the environment through continual improvements to save fuel and water, reduce waste, air emissions, noise, and material consumption,” said Aleksey Matyushev, co-founder and CEO of Natilus. “The Natilus-ZeroAvia partnership goes further, bringing the talents and innovations of the two companies together to deliver much needed innovation in the air cargo delivery industry and multiple solutions for our customers.”

“We all depend on air cargo operators, and some communities depend on them absolutely, so improving the economics and environmental impacts of these operations while increasing service levels is a massive opportunity,” said Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia.

Natilus said it has more than $6.8 billion in order commitments and more than 460 aircraft preorders from companies including Ameriflight, Volatus Aerospace, Flexport, Astral, Aurora International, and Dymond. The company is working on construction of a full-scale Kona technology demonstrator with a wingspan of 85 feet.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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